Captain Travis Yaeckel – Instinct Fishing Co
Great Winter Fishing Tips
We have finally had a couple good cold fronts push through and hang around long enough to cool the water temperatures throughout the bay. As we move towards December, we will sometimes switch gears and do some different types of fishing. Speckled Trout, Flounder, and Sheepshead are a few of my favorites that are great to fish for during the winter months.
Speckled Sea Trout will show up in good numbers as we get through the holidays. The cooler water temps will attract the larger “gator” trout to the shallower grass flats during the warmer parts of the day. My favorite places to target are sandy “potholes” that are peppered throughout any productive area. The nice thing about trout is they will generally take an artificial lure sometimes just as good as live bait. First thing in the morning, I like throwing top water plugs and as the sun comes up I will switch to soft plastics. One of my favorite surface baits is a Zara Spook in the “bone/white” color. On the colder days, a live shrimp will do the trick. Try using a Cajun Thunder Back Bay popping cork if they fish are not active. The sound produced by the popping cork really gets them hunting for the bait. The size limit for Speckled Sea Trout is 15” min, and the bag limit is 4 per person with only 1 fish measuring over 20”.
Sheepshead have already started to infiltrate the flats, shell bottom creeks, canals, and rivers. Most of the fish that we have been seeing are on the smaller side, but normally this means that the deeper rock piles and edges will be holding the big ones. The two locally known reefs, “Bahia Beach & Port Manatee” are great places to start looking for the bigger convicts. Deep water canals and bridges will also be holding them. Look for oysters or rocks and focus on fishing around structure. As far as the rig goes, I like about 24” of 15-20lb Ohero fluorocarbon leader paired with a No. 1 live bait hook. Depending on the depth and current, I will use Joyfish Split Shot weights to gently get the bait to the bottom. Live or cut pieces of Shrimp will work just fine, or if you can get some fiddler crabs they can’t resist them. The key to catching Sheepshead is “feeling” the bite. They are known for eating the bait right off the hook. Unless they are pretty excited, the bite is fairly soft and gentle. I always tell my clients, “If you think you got a bite, you did – Set the hook!” Once hooked, they are feisty fish and have tremendous power for their size. Sheepshead must be at least 12” total length to harvest, the bag limit is 15 per person, and they provide excellent table fair.
Another fantastic winter species in the Bay area is Flounder. Undoubtedly one of the most unattractive fish, but probably one of the best tasting! This time of year, the Flounder will move in on large sandy areas in big numbers. For flats fishing, target potholes and creek mouths with substantial flow. Use the same rig for Sheepshead but you might want to switch to a circle hook. On the warmer days, a small live greenback or shrimp on the bottom will be best. If you like throwing artificial, try a #313 Gold Glitter C.A.L jig from D.O.A paired with a 3/8 oz Hook-Up Lures jig head. The heavier jig head will keep your bait on the bottom and in the strike zone longer during the retrieve. On the colder days, the fish might not be as active. Try a cut piece of any baitfish or shrimp. Some great areas to look for the “Door Mats” are around the Skyway Bridge, Fort Desoto, and Pinellas Point. The minimum size is 12” total length and the bag limit is 10 per person.
SUZUKI TECH TIP
MOTOR STORAGE PROCEDURE
When storing your motor for a long period oftime (for example, at the end of the boating season), it is recommended that you take yourmotor to your authorized Suzuki Marine Dealer.However, if you choose to prepare the motor forstorage yourself, follow the procedure outlinedbelow:
1. Change the gear oil as outlined in the GEAROIL section.
2. Change the engine oil as outlined in theENGINE OIL section.
3. Fill the fuel tank with a high quality fuel stabilizer according to the instructions on the stabilizercan.
4. Flush the water passages in the motor thoroughly.Refer to the FLUSHING THE WATER PASSAGES (Engine running) section.
5. Readjust the water flow, run the engine atabout 1500 r/min in neutral for five minutesto distribute the stabilized fuel through theengine.
6. Stop the engine. Then turn off the water anddisconnect the flushing attachment.
7. Lubricate all other specified parts. Refer tothe LUBRICATION section. Spray entirepowerhead with a rust preventative (not apenetrating oil product).
8. Apply a coat of automotive wax on the externalfinish of the motor. If paint damage is evident,apply touch up paint before waxing.
9. Store the motor in an upright position in adry, well-ventilated area. Select an area with constant temperature to avoid corrosion caused by condensation. Do not store next to furnaces, heaters, etc.
Capt. Travis Yaeckel
Instinct Fishing Co.
Stay dialed-in to what’s biting in Tampa Bay! Capt. Travis Yaeckel, Capt. Jason Prieto, Capt. Ric Liles, & Danny Guarino bring you the full report each week. Listen every Sunday Morning 8-9am on 1040AM ESPN Sports Talk Radio. Watch LIVE on Facebook and YouTube every Wednesday 6-7pm. Or download the podomatic app on your phone or tablet and listen anytime. Search “ Tampa Fishing Outfitters Radio Show “ to follow us and find current and past shows.